Tried & Tested

Flight review: Silk Air Boeing 737 Max 8 business class Singapore-Darwin

18 Feb 2019 by BusinessTravellerAsiaPacific
Silk Air B737 Max 8

Background

Mohamed Rafi Mar, former head of Germany for Singapore Airlines (SIA) and now VP commercial at sister airline SilkAir, has big plans: “In 2020, SilkAir will disappear as a name and, with a new business class, will become the new strong ‘regional arm’ of SIA,” he says.

The brand new Boeing 737 Max 8, which earlier this week SilkAir announced will begin being retrofitted with a new flatbed business class seat in May 2020, is rejuvenating the airline’s fleet, which now flies to 49 destinations in 16 countries.

Singapore Airlines’ service is widely regarded as excellent. Can the “little sister” airline’s service keep up with that of its parent?

Check-In/Lounge

My flight was at 6:30pm. I was flying with hand luggage only and checked in at the automated kiosk. Business class passengers can use Singapore Airlines’ business lounge in Changi Airport Terminal 2. My stay in the lounge – as with all SIA lounges here – got me in a relaxing mood for the six-hour flight to Australia.

Boarding

SilkAir offers priority boarding for all business class passengers and passengers with SIA loyalty programme (Krisflyer) status, although unfortunately not for those with Star Alliance status – and these members can’t accrue miles either.

Holding the thought “there is Singapore Airlines DNA here”, I got on board the plane. The crew uniforms already show that this is a “lite” version of the “champions from Asia”. Instead of the traditional SIA kebaya, the SilkAir cabin crew uniform comprises modern blouses with red or turquoise skirts.

I was in a window seat. There are 12 seats in business class in three rows of 2-2, and six of the seats were occupied. I had hardly sat down before the friendly champagne service came down the aisle. The amenities offering was limited to a pair of slippers and earphones. Toothbrushes and other toiletries were in the onboard toilet.

Silkair's B737 Max 8 business class

The seat

It’s clear that Silk Air has real ambition for the future but, for the time being, the airline has to make the best out of what it has in regard to seating configuration and how its cabin is outfitted.

The 2-2 configured leather seats of the business class are comfortably wide and offer a lot of room between you and the row in front – but they don’t recline to a flat bed. The seatbacks only recline to around 80 degrees, which is bearable for a six-hour flight, but far removed from an SIA business class seat. The side of the seat has a USB-port and a power socket.

The flight

That one can nevertheless enjoy the flight is down to the magnificent and intensively trained cabin crew, who take care of your every wish promptly and with a smile. In its business class, SilkAir offers its “All-Time Favourites” menu. Up to 24 hours before the flight (32 hours for some destinations), you can choose a dish from four different cuisines: Western, Muslim, Indian and Oriental. This is then served on time-tested SIA-quality porcelain plates and white tablecloths. Before my flight, I ordered slow-cooked beef, which at 40,000 feet proved to be an exquisite choice. Even though the wine choice is limited, the quality is good.

In the entertainment department, SilkAir relies on the mobility of its passengers. Whoever downloads the appropriate app (SilkAir Studio) before the flight can, in all classes, download and watch around 300 films on their own mobile device using the in-flight wifi. In business class, also, you will be looking in vain for the seatback IFE monitors. Instead, I got a mid-sized tablet to access the films.

The offering does not really include the newest blockbusters, but for a short- and medium-haul airline its nevertheless an impressive selection. Though why during the whole red-eye flight the overhead monitor was illuminating the cabin with gaudy cooking and comedy shows remains a mystery to me.

Arrival

We landed ahead of schedule at 00:30 in Australia.

Verdict

Silk Air has big things ahead of it. Next year, the whole fleet will be modernised with Boeing 737s. A flat-bed business class will satisfy discerning frequent flyers. Until then, the airline is a light version of Singapore Airlines – with a modern, mobile approach and a service that is already far ahead of other airlines.

Translated by Michael Allen; Original text in German by Kai Böcking. This article originally appeared in Business Traveller Germany.

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Business Traveller UK March 2019 edition
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